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The Chess Box :Chuck Berry
Chuck Berry
The Chess Box :Chuck Berry
Genres: Pop, R&B, Rock
  •  Track Listings (24) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (27) - Disc #2
  •  Track Listings (20) - Disc #3

We may not know who wrote the book of love, but the author of the rock & roll dictionary was Charles Edward "Chuck" Berry. You've got a signature guitar riff that other giants (think Rolling Stones) have based entire c...  more »


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All Artists: Chuck Berry
Title: The Chess Box :Chuck Berry
Members Wishing: 6
Total Copies: 0
Label: Chess
Original Release Date: 11/22/1988
Re-Release Date: 10/25/1990
Album Type: Box set
Genres: Pop, R&B, Rock
Styles: Oldies, Oldies & Retro
Number of Discs: 3
SwapaCD Credits: 3
UPCs: 076741080120, 076741080113, 076741080144, 076748000114, 076748000145

We may not know who wrote the book of love, but the author of the rock & roll dictionary was Charles Edward "Chuck" Berry. You've got a signature guitar riff that other giants (think Rolling Stones) have based entire careers on. Songs such as "School Day" told teen tales as though they were novels. "Too Much Monkey Business" in where Bob Dylan discovered poetry and rap music found a contemporary starting point. "Johnny B. Goode," "Sweet Little Sixteen," "Roll Over Beethoven," "Back in the USA"--the titles alone evoke unparalleled rock atmosphere. If this three-CD set contains less unreleased ephemera than the usual box, it's because there are so many essentials to squeeze in. This one's got 'em all, A to Z. --Ben Edmonds

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Superceded by more recent inexpensive collections, but still
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 06/06/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"In October of 2006 Chuck Berry will be 80 years old. Of the founders of rock `n' roll, he is today the one whose honor and esteem is most out of whack with his actual contributions. By any standards, Chuck Berry is one of the founding titans of rock. Musically, he contributed more than any other of the original inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Elvis put rock `n' roll on the map, but Chuck is the one who drew it. Before Bob Dylan and the rash of great rock `n' roll song writers to spring up in the wake of Beatlemania, Chuck Berry was hands down the finest rock songwriter, with the lone exception of his equal Buddy Holly. It is only a slight over implication to state that most rock since Berry has been a variant of his original adaptation of rhythm and blues. And lyrically Berry was the most gifted lyricist before the advent of Bob Dylan. Of all the rock and roll performers, Berry was the easiest to understand when he sang, precisely pronouncing every word and for a very good reason: they were good words. Indeed, his diction was so superb that his earliest listeners refused to believe that he was a black man; they were convinced he was white. Chuck Berry has long been criticized for his lack of involvement in the Civil Rights movement and for reinforcing some negative images of black males, but by presenting himself as an undeniably intelligent and gifted black at a time when many whites were denying that blacks were as intelligent was itself an important contribution. Besides, working as a black crossover artist he was sometimes able to get his own back by subtle messaging. We all know, for instance, that in "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" he wasn't really talking about eye color. My hope is that for his birthday Berry will be recognized for what he was: the equal of anyone in making rock the popular musical form it became.

Apart from Berry's musical contributions, which were formidable, he brought a sense of playful theatricality that was key in defining early on that rock `n' roll, whatever else it was, was fun. Many of the early rock `n' rollers were great, great showmen in a way that few today aspire to be. Most contemporary performers rely on light shows, gimmicks, and props for their shows, but several early performers were precisely that: performers. To this day few guitarists have been as much fun to watch as Berry, not just during his legendary duck walks, but in a myriad of minor antics onstage.

But most of all, Chuck Berry has established a legacy of great, great songs. Most people know that the lone rock `n' roll song put on Voyager's data disc for any extraterrestrial who happens upon it was none other than Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode." Perhaps one day it will be as big a hit in Alpha Centauri as it has been on earth. What many today may not know is just how much very great music he produced. In fact, his string of hits outstrips nearly any of his contemporaries other than Elvis. His notorious stint in prison probably kept him from charting a few more hits (that he transported an underage girl across state lines is undeniable, but it is hard today to realize how vigorously he was prosecuted by St. Louis authorities and he certainly seems innocent of incitation to prostitution charges), but he eventually recovered from his ordeal to generate a second run of hits in the sixties.

Luckily, though in my and others' opinion Berry is not today given the credit he deserves for his major role in creating rock `n' roll, he has been exceedingly well served by a host of absolutely first rate anthologies. What I would like to do here is map out the five Chuck Berry collections I would most recommend. Each has its virtues and none any vices and it would be very hard to go wrong with any of them. I do think a couple of choices are better than others. Here are the main Chuck Berry collections available today:

CHESS BOX--If price is no consideration and you want almost all of the great music that Chuck Berry, this is unquestionably the one to get. The 3-CD set collects over 70 songs and has every one of the songs that the vast majority of music fans will have heard, all the way to his Christmas hit "Run Rudolph Run." There are a few cuts that are less than essential, but no current collection gives such a great view of his work as a whole, except for the complete collection of his Chess work, but in my opinion it collects too much that is of at most secondary interest.

ANTHOLOGY--Chess released this superb 2-CD culling from the larger CHESS BOX. Though less than half the price of the box, it collects over two-thirds of the songs, though without the Christmas songs that I frankly find endearing. But if you are willing to live without "Run Rudolph Run," this has just about all the Chuck Berry that most fans could crave.

GOLD--This is the big bargain of Chuck Berry anthologies. It contains all the major hits and familiar songs--though, again, without "Run Rudolph Run," which for some reason is omitted from almost all hits collections--and several nice extras as well. Though its 50 songs are slightly different than the one from the ANTHOLOGY, the heart of both collections is the same. If you don't own any Chuck Berry and are not sure that you want to spring the bucks for the CHESS BOX, this is probably the safest best. Lots of Chuck Berry for not very much money.

THE DEFINITIVE COLLECTION--Well, no, this isn't definitive, but this newest Chuck Berry is arguably the finest single-disc edition. But here is the problem: The GOLD collection is only a buck more and contains 20 more songs. Plus, one of the 30 songs on this disc is the dreadful gimmick song "My Ding-A-Ling," a slightly ribald and not very good song that was Berry's last hit in the early seventies. My own belief is that shorter anthologies are improved by its exclusion.

THE GREAT TWENTY-EIGHT--This is back in print after being unavailable for a long time. Unlike THE DEFINITIVE COLLECTION, this is pretty much definitive. Most anthologies basically take the songs off this disc and then add to it. It is canonical in a way that none of the other discs is. Nonetheless, while I think it deserves five stars simply for the role it has played in introducing fans to Berry and for its historical importance, I think it has been surpassed by other collections. Also, the sound on the later discs is better than what you will find on this disc. (Caveat: I own an earlier version of this disc, and it is not impossible that on its re-release the remastered versions of the recordings have been utilized.) Still, for a long, long time this was the Chuck Berry disc to get.

So, if I were buying my first Chuck Berry disc and couldn't afford the CHESS BOX, which one would I go for? I would probably go with the GOLD collection. It is cheap, contains a heap of songs, and has decent sound quality. Then, if I were sufficiently moved to the point where I wanted more, I would go for the CHESS BOX. That really is the best one to get, but there are some really inexpensive compromises that one can make and still get a lot of music by one of the towering figures in rock `n' roll."
A "Must Have" CD for the Serious Rock 'n' Roll Fan
Steve Vrana | Aurora, NE | 01/28/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Chuck Berry has released some fine albums throughout his career (Chuck Berry Is on Top, St. Louis to Liverpool), and until it went out of print the budget-minded could have gotten by with The Great Twenty-Eight. But for only a few dollars more you can enjoy this generous 71-track sampling of his entire career from 1955 to 1973.Chuck Berry wrote the book on rock 'n' roll guitar and was a major influence on British teenagers Keith Richards and George Harrison and countless other guitarslingers since.In the sixties, every British band had at least one Chuck Berry song in its live set and many of them made it onto vinyl as a tribute to the true king of rock 'n' roll--the Beatles ("Roll Over Beethoven," "Rock and Roll Music"), the Rolling Stones ("Carol," "Around and Around"), the Kinks ("Beautiful Delilah"), the Yardbirds ("Too Much Monkey Business"), the Dave Clark Five (Reelin' and Rockin'"), even Brian Wilson had to give Berry a songwriting credit for writing "Surfin U.S.A." Berry's songs are timeless. While he's perhaps best known from his fifties heyday when he had such hits as "Maybelline," "Sweet Little Sixteen" and "Johnny B. Goode," he still managed to place "No Particular Place to Go" in the top ten in 1964 during the height of Beatlemania.This box set also shows the blusier side of Chuck Berry as well. Songs like "Wee Wee Hours" and "No Money Down" reflect the sound of his Chess labelmates. [Note: Bluesman Willie Dixon plays bass on nearly all of Berry's fifties sides.] And tracks like "A Deuce" would show Berry was still relevant into the seventies. In fact, it was in 1972 the Berry charted his first and only No. 1 single, the novelty "My Ding-a-Ling."This 3-CD set collects all the hits and essential album tracks making this an indispensable collection. ESSENTIAL"
Hail! Hail! The King Of Rock and Roll!
Lunatic Muse | El Paso, TX | 04/03/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Ever since Elvis Presley was named the "King of Rock and Roll", Chuck Berry has been given the short shrift. Sure, Elvis had the looks and the sexuality that scared millions, an expressive vocal range and died a relatively early death of excess. However, in terms of overall influence, creativity and genius, no one can touch Berry. Unlike Elvis, Berry wrote all of his own songs, played a meaner, faster guitar, had a stage presence that rivaled Presley's and had control over his own career. Along the way, he melded rock and blues, tackled controversial topics with his pen and lived a life far more dangerous than most of his contemporaries, save Jerry Lee Lewis. His songs have become classics: "Johnny Be Good", "No Particular Place To Go", "Memphis", "Roll Over Beethoven", the list just goes on and on. All of these songs and more are on the wonderfully prepared "Chess Box" set. Ordered chronologically, the three CDs show Berry's progression from Blues master to pop icon in just under 20 years. Every major hit is here, as are live and instrumental tracks that showcase Berry's prowness on the guitar. Lyrically, Berry influenced Bob Dylan and the Beatles and it is easy to see why; though his forte was teenage angst ("School Day", "Little Queenie", "Sweet Little Rock 'n' Roller"), Berry knew how to write subtle songs about racial segregation ("Brown-Eyed Handsome Man"), the consequences of divorce ("Memphis") and the drudgery of blue-collar work ("Too Much Monkey Business"). The liner notes are exemplary (though they do gloss over some of Berry's more infamous run-in's with the law) and the box set as a whole offers a wonderfully comprehensive look at this rock and roll master. There's not a bad track in the bunch and should be included in any serious consideration of the genre. Personal Favorites: the live version of "Reelin' and Rockin'", the song-speak of "Almost Grown" and the frightening description of Hell in "Downbound Train"."